If, instead of calling your significant other or child by their first name, you substitute an endearing pet name–honey, babe, pumpkin, sweet pea or the like–chances are you’re improving your bond without even realizing it. Because cutesy nicknames create intimacy between two humans. Research tells us that couples who use pet names report feeling more satisfied within their relationship than couples that don’t.
And, as you may have guessed, it’s not just North Americans who use these endearing words to describe their most favourite humans. Cultures all around the world use similarly charming and silly phrases and words the same way English speakers do. However, when pet names are translated from their native tongue into another language, they don’t always sound so sweet. In fact, some sound downright insulting.
Language learning app Babbel rounded up a handful of adorable pet names from Italy, Germany, Japan and beyond; we’re not suggesting you use them though, as translating them directly may not go over so well with your SO this Valentine’s Day (or any day). Here are 12 international pet names that get lost in translation.
Microbino mio – Italian
Like most Italian words, microbino mio rolls off the tongue. It sounds beautiful and sexy and cute all at once when said out loud, but the direct translation is “my little microbe,” so might be best saved for a science buff and not a germaphobe.
Spatz – German
The German word spatz translates to “sparrow,” which is actually quite a lovely pet name, but the way it sounds when pronounced in English is so similar to our word “spat.” It feels dirty, and not in a sexy, meet-me-in-the-bedroom-in-five kind of way.
Chang noi – Thai
In Thailand, chang noi is the way to call someone a “little elephant,” which is probably cuter than calling them a big elephant. But these massive mammals aren’t as celebrated in English culture as the are in Southeast Asia, so it loses some of its importance and appeal.
Sötnos – Swedish
Nobody wants to be told they have a pig nose…in English at least. In Sweden, however, the Swedish term sötnos, which means “sweet snout,” is often used as a term of endearment.
Mon petit chou – French
Foods that are cute and/or sweet often make good pet names: sugar, pumpkin, honey. Not so adorable: a head of cabbage. But in French, mon petit chou literally means “my little cabbage.” Even more adorbs: chou chou, which can be used for short.
Mon saucisson – French
Another French food nickname that shouldn’t be translated? Mon saucisson, which means “my little sausage.” If you don’t want to hear, “Are you calling me fat!?” accusations, avoid naming your bae this one.
Dropje – Dutch
Dropje (pronounced “drop-key”) is a traditional Dutch black licorice candy that only the locals seem to enjoy. It makes sense, then, that the word dropje is also used as a form of endearment, even though it directly translates to “little licorice candy.” If you’re going to use it, make sure the intended recipient actually likes black licorice.
Media naranja – Spanish
If you consider your partner your other half, then they’re your media naranja. Sort of. The direct translation of this Spanish pet name literally means “half an orange,” as in your lover is the other half to your orange. Cute, right?
Patatina – Italian
Potatoes are delicious, but would you want be referred to as a round and bulbous root vegetable? Maybe not. Patatina translates to “little potato” and definitely sounds more playful in Italian.
Pus – Norwegian
Pus is the way Norwegians say “kitten,” but again, our English meaning of pus makes one think of an infected sore. And there’s nothing less attractive than calling someone a word reminiscent of an oozing scab. However, the pronunciation in Norwegian puts emphasis on the “u,” so when said properly, it sounds more like our English word, “puss.” Meow!
Tamago gata no kao – Japanese
Probably one of the most bizarre translations is Japan’s pet name, tamago gata no kao. In English, it literally means an egg with eyes. But, wait–in Japanese culture, oval-shaped faces are prized, so an egg-shaped face is a compliment, but it sounds completely strange in English.
Muru – Finnish
Muru is short, sweet and fun to say. But when translated from Finnish to English, it loses a lot of its charm, as it means breadcrumb. Delicious, yes, but “breadcrumb” just doesn’t have the same ring to it as muru.